Friday

23rd Apr 2021

Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears

  • Despite the calls for coordination, member states began recommending different age limits for the AstraZeneca vaccine (Photo: Cheshire East Council)

The European Commission has said national experts should work together with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to develop a "coherent approach" across the EU for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The call comes as a jumble of measures emerged from EU governments, in response to concerns over rare blood clots.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Vaccination is a national competence, and member states may decide to follow a stricter approach when it comes to vaccines. [But] vaccination decisions in one member state can affect, of course, those in other member states," a commission spokesperson said on Thursday (8 April).

EU health ministers held an extraordinary virtual meeting on Wednesday, hours after the EU drug regulator found a possible link between AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine and rare cases of unusual blood clots with low blood platelets.

However, they failed to adopt a common guidance for its use given the "different interpretations" of the conclusions of the EMA's report.

EU commissioner for health Stella Kyriakides called, on Wednesday, for a coordinated European approach to ensure that "on the basis of the same set of evidence, similar decisions are taken in different member states".

"It is essential that we follow a coordinated European approach ... which does not confuse citizens, and that does not fuel vaccine hesitancy," she told ministers at the meeting, Reuters reported.

Despite the calls for coordination, member states began recommending different age limits for the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"This is a technical decision ... not a political decision," warned Portuguese health minister Marta Temido, whose country currently holds the EU Council presidency.

Different age limits

The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Spain have all limited the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged over 60.

France and Belgium said the jab should only be given to those aged 55 and over.

And in Finland and Sweden, only people aged 65 and over will receive the jab.

Other countries in the bloc have not set age limits.

But British authorities have recommended that adults aged under 30 should be offered an alternative vaccine to the AstraZeneca jab.

Meanwhile, Germany has also recommended that those under 60 who have had a first AstraZeneca shot should receive a different vaccine for their second dose.

But the EU regulator said on Wednesday that there are no guidelines on the "mixing and matching" of different Covid-19 vaccines since there is no related data submitted or assessed so far by the EMA.

This new strategy is at odds with the initial approach in some member states, such as Germany, and France, which initially recommended AstraZeneca only for people under 65, or Italy and Spain, which recommended it only to those under 55, arguing that trial data for the elderly was insufficient.

Earlier in March, a dozen EU countries paused the vaccination with AstraZeneca over emerging reports of blood clotting - even though no causal link had been proven.

Lower trust?

Data from a survey published on Thursday revealed that citizens' trust in AstraZeneca is now lower than for other vaccines.

Among those who are not vaccinated, 65 percent showed some concern about the British-Swedish vaccine compared with about one-third for the other vaccines.

The EU agency pointed out on Wednesday that the benefits of the AstraZeneca jab still outweigh its risks, adding that it will continue monitoring the safety and effectiveness of this jab and other vaccines authorised in the EU.

The EMA's analysis is based on 164 cases of the rare brain blood clot, among 34 million doses administrated across the bloc.

By comparison, four women out of 10,000 would probably get a blood clot from taking the birth control pill.

Opinion

A neuroscientist writes on AstraZeneca fears

Irrespective of whether or not the decision to pause the AstraZeneca vaccine was political, it is clear that governments around the world are not solely basing their vaccination rollout on scientific evidence.

Opinion

Brexit, tabloid 'sulks', and AstraZeneca

A closer look at the events, however, shows that instead of a conspiracy the decision was old-fashioned bureaucratic caution. Isolated quotes by European officials were used to suit ideological agendas.

EU drugs agency plays down AstraZeneca 'blood clot' fears

The European Medicines Agency has said that the benefits of AstraZeneca's vaccine continue to outweigh the risks - suggesting countries can continue using the British-Swedish jab. Several member states have suspended its use over blood-clot concerns.

News in Brief

  1. Golden backdoor to EU exposed in Malta
  2. India hits 1m infections in four days
  3. Report: Biden to call out Turkey on 1915 Armenia 'genocide'
  4. Putin threatens West with Cold-War geometry
  5. Coronavirus: Japan to declare state of emergency in Tokyo
  6. Navalny must now be treated abroad, UN experts say
  7. World body stigmatises Syria for gassing own people
  8. Hungary to tweak NGO and university law after EU rulings

Feature

Italy's mafias - boosted by Covid, now eyeing EU's billions

Italy's various mafias are allegedly exploiting the chaos caused by the Covid-19 emergency to infiltrate even deeper into sectors where they are already present, such as healthcare, mortuary services, and waste disposal (both medical and non-medical).

EU missed March vaccination target for priority groups

The EU failed to reach its target of having at least 80 percent of the elderly and healthcare workers vaccinated by the end of March. According to estimates, 55 percent will be vaccinated by the end of June.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. Chemical-weapons vote reveals 'friends of Syria' axis
  2. Russia should pay 'costs' for Czech attack, US says
  3. Merkel 'open' to EU treaty change on health
  4. EU seeks global AI leadership with new rules
  5. EU defers decision on gas and nuclear as 'green' energy
  6. After China ban, Romania hit by illegal waste imports
  7. Hungary: Why we oppose carbon price, but back gas
  8. EU negotiators strike deal on climate 'law of laws'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us